The NHL has invited the top 109 draft-eligible players to the 2019 Scouting Combine which will once again be held in Buffalo. Fitness testing will start on June 1st, where players from all over the world will compete to show their athletic ability and bump up their draft stock at least a few positions. The league will also be releasing their final draft rankings on Monday, April 15.
While the Scouting Combine can’t make a player a star, it can certainly shine a light on some physical attributes that may have been overlooked throughout his minor and junior hockey career. Last year saw Liam Foudy explode onto the scene with outstanding performances in nearly every event, which likely helped the Columbus Blue Jackets feel confident selecting him 18th overall in the following draft. Foudy has taken another step in his development with the London Knights, scoring 36 goals and 68 points in 62 games while helping the team to the brink of the OHL Conference Final.
For players like Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko, the presumptive top two selections in this year’s draft, the combine doesn’t mean a whole lot. A poor showing in some of the events wouldn’t remove them from consideration at the top of the draft, and a good one would only be expected at this point. For players a little further down the draft board it can be another important showcase.
The Athletic recently released a mock draft of the top-15 selections (subscription required), and there are several players on the list that are worth watching if they end up attending the event. Of course many eyes will be on the smaller players in the draft like Cole Caufield, who was mocked to the Philadelphia Flyers with the 11th pick. The USNTDP forward measures in at just 5’7″ 157-lbs, but is an incredible offensive player that could perhaps make an impact at the NHL level anyway. There are also beefy defensemen like Philip Broberg, who already weighs in at over 200-lbs and stands 6’3″. The Swedish defenseman is an excellent skater, and good performances in the mobility events might just make him even more appealing to NHL scouts.
It’s also of course a chance for teams to meet face to face with some of these players, and get a read on what drives them to be professional athletes. The interview process is one that has changed the course of many drafts in the past, and will continue to do so even as scouting techniques refine in the future.